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Guest Column: Winnebago County Zoning office suppresses opposition information

October 12, 2011

By Nichole Larison Sammon
Fox Ridge Subdvision resident

The Winnebago County Zoning office copied and compiled a stack of information for the Winnebago County Board to consider for voting on the special-use permit for the asphalt plant in the East State Street quarry. Each board member received his or her own personal stack of testimony to consider. There is only one issue: the stack is missing pertinent information presented by the opposition, the residents surrounding the quarry.

At this point, the stack is missing official Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports concerning asphalt fumes and the chemicals released in the air by asphalt production and the Illinois Department of Public Health’s fact sheet for those who live around asphalt plants and the possible health effects.

The zoning office seems to have conveniently left out Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports concerning asphalt plant workers and their respiratory irritation issues from breathing in asphalt fumes day in, day out, and health studies from renowned scientists from across the U.S. who have studied the effects of asphalt fumes on everyone from workers to residents.

A 2006 report from the National Asphalt Producers Association, a national industry group of which William Charles is a member, mentioning the fact that scientific gaps still exist when it comes to understanding the health effects of asphalt fumes. This report also mentioned William Charles’ own, paid, scientific witness by name, Dr. Laura Green, as assisting in compiling the scientific gaps.

Instead, the stack included only one health report, or, rather, question-and-answer sheet from one William Charles witness, Dr. Green. Is the board to take one scientist’s edited and purchased opinion against that of the entire scientific community and the asphalt industry itself? Do we not trust the government bodies created to protect our health and environment enough to offer them to the board as evidence to consider?

At this point, along with health and environmental studies, the stack is missing relevant information around the topography of the area, the wind studies collected from the Weather Channel and Western Illinois University, and the property value studies.

Why is the Winnebago County Zoning office editing the testimony of the opposition? All testimony, all evidence is considered equal. All information should be given to the Winnebago County Board for consideration.

Please call the Winnebago County Zoning office to voice your concerns — (815) 319-4350.

The Rock River Times’ Editor & Publisher Frank Schier told me his evidence presented at the Winnebago County Zoning Board of Appeals was not presented to the full board either, so this is nothing new.

I made copies for each member of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) of all my documents, just as Sammon and other asphalt plant opponents did,” Schier said. “But just like the asphalt plant staff report, the staff report for the wind ordinance was written before my testimony and evidence presentation, and that report already had 95 percent of the changes to the ordinance. County Planner Troy Krup told me I had to make all the copies of my evidence for the entire board. I had spent enough time and money and saw the deal as done. As all the text of the ordinance and the staff changes show in both cases, the staff works for and with the petitioner, not the objectors. By and large, only the petitioner’s evidence goes before the board, and I’ll bet staff doesn’t ask them to pay for it — although they do pay for the court reporter. I think these stacked hearings and staff reports make the ZBA, Zoning Committee and entire board votes a massive joke and fraud. Democracy truly is dead in Winnebago County, and the aristocracy of corporate greed is sucked up to by the politicians, and these kingpins own most of our spineless representatives. Look at Don Gasparini getting all the Winnebago County Forest Preserve money for his land, which needs more money to become a forest preserve, and it isn’t even on the priority acquisitions list. AND the Forest Preserve has no money in its land acquisition fund, so the money is coming out of its main operations fund over five years! What operations will be cut to cover this for five years? Don knows it’s good to be Forest Preserve Chairman Randy Olson’s buddy. ‘Buddies’ and firms like Rockford Blacktop/William Charles rule; taxpayers be damned! We need more people like the 107 Occupy Rockford activists, but key ‘activists’ were absent, too bought off, too scared or too apathetic. Welcome to the herd in Winnebago ‘we-ignore-the-taxpayers-and-the-law’ County. Baaa! Mooo! God bless anyone for trying, but I bet the county board members get only one or two calls each, if any.”

Please call Winnebago County Board members to voice your concerns. Their contact information follows: ISIDRO BARRIOS (H) (815) 969-0562, KYLE LOGAN (C) (815) 979-6673, TED BIONDO (H) (815) 633-7757, KAY MULLINS (H) (815) 877-1236, JOHN CABELLO (C) (815) 621-2196, WENDY OWANO (C) (815) 627-0232, GEORGE ANNE DUCKETT (H) (815) 963-4720, TOM OWENS (H) (815) 335-7591, JOHN EKBERG (H) (815) 395-1955, DIANNE PARVIN (H) (815) 633-8095, DAVE FIDUCCIA (H) (815) 332-3416, RICK POLLACK (H) (815) 963-1047, FRANK GAMBINO (B) (815) 637-0113, DOROTHY REDD (H) (815) 964-8920, ANGIE GORAL (H) (815) 964-0686, STEVE SCHULTZ (C) (815) 505-4345, JOHN GUEVARA (H) (815) 316-2032, LYNNE STRATHMAN (815) 543-8755, PEARL HAWKS (H) (815) 963-2670, JOHN SWEENEY (C) (815) 262-5769, JOE HOFFMAN (H) (815) 399-5026, DAVE TASSONI (H) (815) 967-0198, KEVIN HORSTMAN (H) (815) 979-7174, JIM WEBSTER (H) (815) 629-2014, GARY JURY (B) (815) 885-8446, FRED WESCOTT (C) (815) 985-3479, BOB KINNISON (C) (815) 519-1088 and L.C. WILSON (H) (815) 962-6108.

Furthermore: Winnebago County did not raise property taxes?

Is the daily confused or just confusing us?

Despite media reports to the contrary, Winnebago County did not raise property taxes for 2012.” A direct quote from Ted Biondo in the RR Star on Oct. 10. In the same newspaper on Sept. 30, Winnebago County stated “property tax rates are expected to rise to 88 cents per $100 equalized assessed value.” In a separate paragraph, Mr. Biondo writes, “The rate fluctuates inversely with the Equalized Assessed Valuation determined for Winnebago county.” Which is it? The first paper to report on the expected rise was the Rockford Register Star. One must suppose “media reports” only points a finger right back at the Rockford Register Star.

No matter what the spin Mr. Biondo would like to use in this case, OUR property taxes are expected to go up. All records are public and available for review. Mr. Biondo, a Winnebago County Board member, voted for the property tax raise and the raise to all of the ZBA Board members on the night of Sept. 29 during a regularly-scheduled Winnebago County Board meeting.

Mr. Biondo will also be a voting Winnebago County Board member, who will be one of many casting a vote on whether William Charles Construction will be granted a special-use permit to operate an asphalt plant at the East State Street quarry.

Let Mr. Biondo know misdirection concerning property taxes of the county you live in is not appreciated. Let all of the Winnebago County Board members who voted for the increase know your thoughts about this misdirection.

Finally, threats to our water, one of our shared resources as Winnebago County residents

As Winnebago County residents, we have very few resources we all share. Air is one, water is another. If there is an issue in either one, we all are affected. We all must deal with the consequences.

WHY WORRY ABOUT GROUND WATER?

Ground water is the water found in spaces between soil particles and rocks, within cracks of the bedrock, and the aquifer. It is our drinking water. Ground water is often taken for granted, and is seriously vulnerable to pollution and depletion. Because of this threat, it is important to understand the processes that make ground water available for use and how human activities sometimes threaten this shared resource.

Ground water is an integral part of the water cycle. The cycle starts with rain falling on the surface. Runoff from rain goes directly into lakes and streams. Some of the water, which seeps into the ground, is used by plants. The remaining water drains down through the soil, where water fills all the spaces between soil particles and rocks forming an aquifer. The East State Street quarry sits right above the Galena-Platteville Aquifer. Water moves from areas where the water table is higher toward areas where the water table is lower. When ground water comes to a lake, stream, or ocean, it discharges from the ground and becomes surface water we see and play in. This water then evaporates into the atmosphere, condenses, and becomes rain, thus starting the water cycle again.

The aquifer, or ground water, usually moves much slower than surface water. Water in a stream may move several feet per minute, but ground water may move only several feet per month. This is because ground water must move through small spaces between rocks and soil underground.

Ground water becomes polluted when toxic substances become dissolved in water at the land surface and are carried down, or leached, to the aquifer ground water. Since ground water moves slowly, many years may pass before a pollutant released on the land surface above is detected. By then, unfortunately, it is too late.

Examples of contaminants are:

synthetic organic chemicals, such as, petroleum products

• certain heavy metals, such as, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead

• nitrate nitrogen

petroleum residues and combustion products

Asphalt is a petroleum product, and its chemical makeup is considered harmful if ingested with drinking water.

The Galena-Platteville aquifer is part of our county’s and adjoining counties’ water system. It is our drinking water. Between the petroleum residues from the trucks and asphalt plant operations, the ground water could be contaminated. It could dissolve in water at the land surface and be carried down to the Galena-Platteville aquifer. Our shared resource, water.

WHY WORRY ABOUT SURFACE WATER?

Surface water is the water we see and enjoy. It is our lakes, our rivers, and the ocean. It is replenished through ground water aquifer flows and rain. According to the hydrology report turned in by William Charles, 1,700 gallons per minute, or 2.5 million gallons per day are pumped out of the East State Street quarry. This is water from the Galena-Platteville aquifer. This water is pumped over State Street and toward a tributary to the Kishwaukee River. The Kishwaukee River has north and south branches, which flow as a “Class A” tributary (one of only three in the entire state) to the Rock River, the heart and soul of Rockford, Ill.

Final thoughts

With the addition of the asphalt plant to the East State Street quarry, the petroleum residues from the trucks and asphalt plant operations, the Galena-Platteville aquifer could be contaminated. This contaminated ground water would then be pumped out of the quarry, 2.5 million gallons per day, into the watershed of the “Class A” Kishwaukee River, flowing to the Rock River. The only way to prevent contamination to the surface water is to ensure all water is treated before leaving the quarry site. Looking at the plans for the asphalt plant operations, there are no plans for water treatment. In fact, no changes to water conditions were cited in the plan presented to the ZBA Board.

Without such measures, not only could this asphalt plant’s contamination be part of our drinking water, but it could become part of our county and state’s recreational water. As Winnebago County Citizens, are we prepared to gamble with our water?

William Charles Ltd. is no stranger to water contamination issues. William Charles’ waste division started in 1972 with Pagel Pit and had an issue in 2001. A document dated May 24, 2001, concerning a construction permit William Charles was trying to apply for, was denied by the IEPA. It was denied, according to the document, based on analytical data submitted with the permit application showing levels above the local limit for arsenic and hexavalent chromium. For those movie buffs out there, hexavalent chromium is the same chemical made famous by the movie Erin Brockovich. A variety of actions have since been put into place to ensure safe drinking water in the area for surrounding residents, and the area is listed as part of the EPA Superfund. The EPA Superfund is the federal government’s program to clean up the nation’s uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.

Let your Winnebago County Board members know your thoughts about quality drinking and recreational water.

From the Oct. 12-18, 2011, issue

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